Dakota Datebook

Temporarily Orkney

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Wolford, North Dakota, was originally settled as the town of Orkney. The name was changed to Wolford in 1905, but Wolford’s identity confusion didn’t stop there. After Watford was settled in 1913, Great Northern Railroad shipments were often misrouted because “Watford” and “Wolford” looked similar on handwritten forms.

To avoid this confusion, the railroad changed Wolford’s depot name back to Orkney, but the citizens protested, declaring that their town was older, so Watford should have to change. On this date in 1915 the Great Northern Railway relented. After only a few days of being called Orkney, the town was once again named Wolford. In October the state railway commission solved the problem by renaming “Watford” as Watford City.

Dakota Datebook written by Derek Dahlsad


Williams, Mary Ann Barnes. Origins of North Dakota Place Names.

“News of the State,” Bismarck Daily Tribune, 3/10/1915

“North Dakota Town Gets Back Old Name,” Bismarck Daily Tribune, 3/11/1915

“Ask Watford To Take New Name,” Bismarck Daily Tribune, 10/3/1915


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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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